AS ONE of the few familiar faces, Jake Reeves should have felt more relaxed than most with Stuart McCall’s Valley Parade comeback.

Reeves had been signed by McCall in the summer of 2017 and was a mainstay in the City side permanently sat in a League One play-off spot before it all collapsed.

And yet the midfielder admitted he was under more pressure than his team-mates because the returning manager knew exactly what to expect.

As a member of the midfield trio with Nicky Law and Romain Vincelot that McCall had described as one of the best in the third tier at the time, Reeves had to hit the ground running second time around.

He said: “I knew I had to prove myself again to Stuart and I’m still having to do that day-by-day.

“We were probably playing a slightly different style of football before and obviously in a different league.

“But because he knew me from then, I felt I needed to impress him again. If I don’t do that, ultimately I won’t be in the team.”

Reeves has arguably been City’s best performer in the three games since McCall picked up the reins and scored his first goal for the club in last week’s 2-1 loss at Cambridge.

The midfielder looks back fondly on his initial spell under the City boss after joining from Wimbledon. And he still believes that it was the wrong call to get rid of McCall after the blip in January 2018.

But it was only after he had been sacked that many of the players discovered just how much meddling McCall had been forced to deal with from former chairman Edin Rahic.

Reeves added: “It’s been stated before that there were obviously on-going issues behind the scenes.

“To be honest, the gaffer was really good at keeping that behind closed doors and away from the training ground.

“We never really knew to the full extent what was going on or how difficult it was.

“He got sacked after five losses in a row and we were still in the play-offs. That shows how well he was doing as a manager.

“Players have to take it on their shoulders when managers get the sack. I still don’t believe that Stuart should have gone at the time but ultimately that was because of our performances.

“We always felt we would turn it round, especially with Stuart because everyone loved playing for him.

“But because of what happened before, he’s probably even more determined now to really make it work with a club that is obviously so close to his heart.”

Reeves can remember how excited he was to link up with McCall in the first place.

“It was a no brainer to sign for somebody like Stuart, especially as a midfielder as well,” he added.

“If he thinks you’re decent enough to play in his side, I take that as a big compliment.

“The way he wants to play football and the way midfielders should play football in this day and age is what he epitomises.

“That six-month period before we spiralled downward was massive for me and I think my game improved on and on from my Wimbledon days.”

Reeves had featured against his old club in what proved to be McCall’s final home match in charge in January 2018.

It would also be the last time he would step on a pitch for 20 months as the groin injury that would send him into the “darkest moment” of his career took hold.

“I wanted to play as much as I possibly could for the club, especially being a new signing.

“It was so enjoyable playing in that midfield because we were flying at one point.

“Unfortunately, things happen and injuries affect performances. You try to play through it and deny it to yourself but it just got to the point where I couldn’t carry on.”

Sixteen appearances in the last three months have confirmed Reeves is back and looking to make the impact he had done at the start. A first City goal last week at Cambridge was another step forward.

“It was never a case of just getting fit to be available for selection and people saying, ‘he’s done very well, look at him.’

“I wanted to be playing and trying to improve on what I was before.”

His strike was not enough to end the away hoodoo that has held City back since October. But Reeves remains confident that corner can be turned as they hit the road again against Newport.

“Football changes rapidly. You only need that one.

“I know we lost last weekend but we’ve taken a lot more positives out of it than in other games.

“Having another away game straight after is probably more beneficial to us because we can go straight to it.”